The French Protectorate in Morocco (1942-1956)

Jewish Family, Tangiers, early 20th century.
ANU Museum of the Jewish People Photo Archive, Tel Aviv
Fez: Place du Commerce in the mellah, before 1925, by Mario Goldman, Musée d’art et d’histoire de Judaïsme, Paris

In May 1948, Arab armies launched their war against the new State of Israel. Sultan Mohammed V declared his support for the Arabs. With the war, Moroccan nationalists found a cause that could unite Moroccans without giving the appearance that the real enemy was the French Government, and the ultimate goal Moroccan independence. As part of this campaign, some nationalists organized a boycott of Moroccan Jewish merchants, whom they identified as Zionists. Such a campaign, along with minimal efforts to recruit Jews into the nationalist struggle, created a feeling of isolation among many Moroccan Jews.

In response to anti-Jewish rhetoric, Sultan Mohammed V warned Muslims not to hurt Moroccan Jews, reminding them that Jews had always been protected in Morocco and had always showed their devotion to the Throne. He also warned Moroccan Jews not to support Zionists. He emphasized that Jews were well-treated Moroccan subjects with the obligation to support the Sultan, and he voiced support for other Arab leaders. The speech was read in all synagogues.

Tensions associated with the Israeli-Arab War and the beginnings of Moroccan Jewish emigration to Israel contributed to two pogroms in the eastern towns of Oujda and Jerrada in June 1948. The pogroms, which were not well controlled by the French authorities, resulted in 8 deaths, 600 wounded, and 900 homeless in the Jewish community of Oujda. In Jerrada, there were 39 dead and 44 wounded. The Pacha of Oujda expressed his regrets about these incidents and met with each victim’s family.  Following these gestures, he was attacked violently in Oujda’s Grand Mosque.

Even though the nationalists supported the Palestinian struggle and opposed Moroccan Jewish support for Israel, they nevertheless sought World Jewish support for Moroccan independence. In 1955, nationalist leaders from the Istiqlal Party met with the World Jewish Congress in efforts to seek American support for Moroccan independence. At the meeting, they stated their intention to guarantee the liberty of Moroccan Jews and their equality with other citizens as well as the participation of Jews in the Government.

With the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, some Moroccan Jews decided to emigrate to Israel. They emigrated both during the period before Moroccan independence in 1956, when emigration to Israel was legal, as well as from 1956 until 1961, when it was illegal. As a result, the Jewish population dropped from 218,000 in 1952 to 162,000 in 1960, according to Government censuses.